Novel Fodder

Posted by Censor Librorum on Feb 15, 2007 | Categories: Lesbian in a Catholic Sort of Way

My great grandfather emigrated from Marienwerder, Prussia (now Poland) to the United States sometime in the 1880s. He left with his brothers and sisters and they never went back. The family were farmers and jewelers. One of them was a silversmith. My great-grandfather settled in Elizabeth, NJ along with one of his sisters. The family did not fare well. Time and family tragedy scattered them and their descendents. It almost seems they brought their black cloud over with them to ensure the line petered out. But I am not content to let them fade away. I’m curious as to why they left and who they were, and how they were shaped by their land and heritage. Outside of my mom’s stories, which are great and provide some clues, and a few documents, there is not much to guide me to begin a chronicle. A line from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland provided the inspiration to start: the King said to the White Rabbit: “Begin at the beginning and go on till you come to the end: then stop.”

Marienwerder has some interesting history. It is closely associated with the Teutonic Knights, a military order close along the lines of the Knights Templar. When they weren’t hacking up the local pagan Prussians-and getting fried alive in return-the Knights set up a quasi political state that lasted for a few hundred years. St. Dorothea of Montau is also associated with Marienwerder. She was an anchoress, and ended her life in a cell attached to the cathedral of the Teutonic Knights in Marienwerder. Her legend goes that she was a woman given to pilgrimages and ecstatic visions. She wanted to retire from the world. On May 2, 1393, she had herself walled up in a cell that measured 6′ x 6′ and about 9′ tall. Of the three windows one opened to the sky, the second to a cemetery and the third on to the altar of the church where the Blessed Sacrament was exposed. She lasted a year.

So there’s some strange stuff in Marienwerder worth investigating. I wish I had it in me to write a best-selling Da Vinci Code type book about the Teutonic Knights and St. Dorothea’s cell in the Cathedral. Taking some generally accepted history, real people and mixing with a good story is a terrific formula. It worked for Dee Brown. It worked for the authors of the Gospels, and it might work for me, too.

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